England must be wary of potential Pakistani threat
Pakistan should give England exactly the kind of test they need ahead of this winter’s Ashes series.
The visitors are buoyant after last week’s dramatic first test match win over Australia in 15 years and Andrew Strauss’ men will need to be wary.
Despite their shambolic facade, few sides possess as many match winners as the Pakistani’s, and arguably no one in international cricket has a better bowling attack.
In 18-year-old Mohammad Aamir they have the most exciting young cricketer in the game, a frightening reincarnation of Wasim Akram who swings the both ways, late and at pace.
Aamir has taken to the international game with the kind of buoyancy few achieve despite his tender years and together with Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul completes a strong seam attack.
Asif is the talisman, a bizarre throwback to the kind of 80mph line and length bowlers England have abandoned in favour of the gangly ‘back-of-a-length’ type.
He is almost a microcosm for the Pakistani side; controversial, scandal prone (he has twice tested positive for steroids) sometimes lackadaisical in the field and yet capable of the kind of wicked brilliance which strikes batsmen dumb.
In the first test against Australia at Lord’s he suddenly clicked into gear, picking up Michael Clarke, Simon Katich and Marcus North in the time the Aussies edged from 171 to 174.
Umar Gul, deadly at T20 level and consistent in the longer form, and the attacking leg-spinner Danish Kaneria complete an attack which can hiss with menace.
But this is Pakistan. Things are never simple with Pakistani cricket and they are unlikely to remain so over the next four Test matches.
England should have enough to see off opponents who have struggled in the few tests they have played in the last few years.
Strauss has fewer match winners at his disposal but England bat deep and in Graeme Swann has the best spinner in world cricket.
It should be a stern test of England’s abilities however and for the likes of Eoin Morgan, Jonathan Trott and Alistair Cook, a crucial series.
All three have Ashes places to secure against Asif and co. and come September and the squad selection, Ian Bell may be blessing the broken foot currently keeping him out of the side.